Courtesy of UA Athletics
The era of Tua Tagovailoa-style football has come to an end. Enter redshirt junior quarterback Mac Jones, arguably one of the best game managers in college football. The Crimson Tide elegantly scored at will in a dominant win over the Missouri Tigers. It’s Alabama’s first SEC opener since a 1999 game vs. Vanderbilt.
There were many questions surrounding both sides of the football after many positions were empieted via the NFL draft in April. The biggest position that the Crimson Tide had to fill was quarterback, with star quarterback Tagovalia entering the draft and getting picked by the Miami Dolphins fifth overall. However to most, the 38 to 20 win against Missouri was no surprise, even to head coach Nick Saban who was impressed by Jones and other leaders on the team after the game in a press conference via Zoom.
Throughout Nick Saban’s coaching tenure with Alabama, there has been a connection between quarterbacks and star receivers. From Greg McElroy and Julio Jones to Blake Sims and Amari Cooper, Alabama has seen its fair share of dynamic duos. Mac Jones has seemed to establish that connection with junior wide receiver Jaylen Waddle. Jones and Waddle connected for eight passes, resulting in 134 yards and two touchdowns.
“We’ve had that relationship since [Waddle] stepped on campus,” Jones said. “Going back to summer 7-on-7s, just getting that chemistry with him… He’s going to get open, he’s going to do his job.”
There was a momentum shift near the end of the first quarter as Jones took a shot from projected NFL first round pick Nick Bolton. Jones disregarded the heat and stepped into a throw that led to a Waddle touchdown. Jones popped right back up after the hit as if nothing had happened and said in the post game press conference that he loves the big hits.
“There’s nothing better than getting hit while throwing the ball,” Jones said. “It’s a part of the game and it really gives me a little bit of energy.”
Alabama went up 14-0 with that pass, and from that point on, the game was out of reach. Alabama closed the half outsourcing Missouri 14-to-3, which put the Crimson Tide up 28-to-3.
One key note from the game was the predictable sloppy play from both teams. There were only two turnovers overall in the game, including a mishandled pass from Missouri quarterback Shawn Robinson to running back Tyler Baddie. However, Alabama had seven penalties that resulted in the loss of 49 yards. Though those numbers aren’t huge, the penalties came at less than optimal moments in gameplay.
On a kickoff after an Alabama touchdown, there was a late hit penalty called on freshman linebacker Drew Sanders that cost the team 15 yards. Shortly afterwards, in a third and mid situation on the same drive, Alabama was called for defensive holding that resulted in a 10-yard loss and an automatic first down. These penalties were enough to put Missouri into Alabama territory.
Although these penalties didn’t result in a score for the Tigers, teams that Alabama will face this season that have more talent and experience will be sure to make the most out of rare Crimson Tide mistakes. Saban was pleased overall with the performance from the team, but as always the coach was ready to play devil’s advocate.
“There’s a lot of things we can do to improve on,” Saban said. “I’m proud of our team, they went through a lot and had to overcome a lot to play in this game. We just didn’t maintain our intensity throughout, which we’ll learn from and certainly have to do down the road in the SEC.”
On the defensive side of the football, senior linebacker Dylan Moses was able to play in his first game since 2018. Moses’ return was a bright spot for the defense, as Moses was unable to play last season after he suffered an ACL injury at fall camp. Moses played with almost an unmatched energy and said he was thankful for getting to play tonight.
“It felt great, just getting to be with my teammates,” Moses said. “I feel like we have a very special defense, [but] I wasn’t very impressed with the way we played tonight. We played very well in the first half, but [in the] second half we just need to finish.”